(Yes, I know if I’m food blogging I should take pictures. I don’t really do that for this blog, but I am keeping it mind, I swear.)
I touched down in PR and found myself at the local market figuring out what I could make, since it turned out I had somehow agreed to cook for six newly minted lawyers. The SuperMax was kind of kooky for me. It was oddly arranged, and seemed stocked arbitrarily. No corn on the cob, but almond milk? Sure.
I decided to go Spanish/Italian. What the hell. I found a loaf of bread bearing a resemblance in form to French, and decided all bread can be bruschetta in a pinch. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer that is basically crap on thick toast. Traditionally this is tomato and mozzarella, but that’s kind of boring. But a dish that is crap on toast can be so many things, as long as you’ve got something that looks like a french loaf or baguette to start with. This got chopped 3/4th inch thick, drizzled with olive oil and a little crushed garlic then toasted to a burn. Form does not actually suggest cook time, it turns out. Then the burn bits got scraped off, and we were good to go. I found a wondrous PR food: guava paste, and topped it with a precious bit of basil goat cheese.
This was damn tasty, and for me the evening’s best hit. This is the thing that’s great about bruschetta, it’s a wonderful way to experiment with the local idiosyncratic foods. If you really get a hit you not only find a new bruschetta to take home, but give the locals a new twist on an ingredient they thought they’d seen the length and breadth of. I suspect this trick only works if you’re not in Italy.
Then I did yag, or yet another gazpacho. I think I’ve found the true wonder of this soup. You learn the form, and do it with local produce. Every one is a unique delight, and it can be relatively inexpensive that way. As near as I can tell the two atomic ingredients are tomatoes, which makes it gazpacho, and cucumbers, which makes it not salsa. More on this as I learn to grok the gaz. Maybe ‘gazpacho design patterns’.
I did my first risotto as well. Lacking the white wine my recipe called for, I poured in a half can of light beer, which turned out great. Risotto is one of those sneaky recipes which is actually really easy to make and seems impressive. I fried up some onions, garlic, and mushrooms in far too much butter and oil, then threw in 2.5 cups(ish) of rice and got the whole mess nicely coated in the oil. I threw everything in a big pot and poured in a half can of the local light beer and let that absorb. Then I threw in some veggie stock, a cup at a time, and cooked it over a mediumish heat, covered. I stirred and tasted it every so often to figure out if it needed more stock. Towards the end I threw in most of a can of asparagus, seeing as the fresh stuff locally is more expensive than gold. I should have added more- it turned out that while it gave the rice a nice tang, it was a mushroom risotto with a hint of asparagus, and I’d been after an asparagus risotto with a hint of mushroom. Risotto made this way comes out stupidly creamy, and has no right to be. Cheese is great in it as well, but I like to have a small collection of vegan recipes that are fairly rich and creamy, because vegan cuisine so rarely goes for that kind of texture and flavor. Of course, you have to omit the butter. Risotto seems like another good design patterns kind of food.
Finally I made another creme anglaise. (I’ve decided I probably need to just travel with my own vanilla beans.) This time it was over some pears cooked in butter and cinnamon and topped it with a dollop of a gritty ganache made with a local chocolate. This was the least exciting- I want to try it again, but perverting some local cuisine like the plantains. Mwahahah.
All in all, the main outcome was that I overfed the lawyers.
But I also found a nice use for leftover creme anglaise. French toast, anyone?